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African Americans Less Likely to Adhere to Antiretroviral Therapy, and Untreated Depression May Be a Factor

May 8, 2012

Researchers from the University of Michigan have found that African Americans are less likely to adhere to their HIV meds compared to other people living with HIV/AIDS. Fewer than 30 percent of the African Americans living with HIV/AIDS who participated in the study had "optimal" adherence, compared to 40 percent of HIV-positive participants of other races and ethnicities. "Optimal" adherence was defined as adhering to meds more than 90 percent of the time.

The study cites past research that has found African-Americans living with HIV/AIDS have less access to quality health care, distrust the medical community more, and wait longer to start treatment than their white counterparts. But lead researcher Rajesh Balkrishnan believes that untreated depression rates may also play a role in why these disparities exist.

While across the board depression plays a factor in adherence regardless of race and socioeconomic status, Balkrishnan and his team found that African Americans had a 10 percent higher incidence of depression. Of the 7034 participants, more than 4,600 were black, and nearly half reported suffering from depression.

According to a University of Michigan press release:

The good news is that antidepressant treatment nearly doubled the odds of optimal ART adherence among patients of all races who reported depression, Balkrishnan says. ...

Balkrishnan's research group set out to examine the possible link between race and ART adherence in low income HIV-infected populations, and whether any racial differences in therapy adherence was further enhanced by depression. Racial disparities exist in many aspects of HIV/AIDS, but until now not much was known about race and ART adherence, or depression and adherence.

Though depression was high among all HIV patients regardless of race, depression did not further enhance the already-existing racial disparity in adhering to drug therapy. However, Balkrishnan pointed out that this should be interpreted with caution, since evidence has shown that African Americans are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for depression than whites. ...

"The fact that many African-American patients with compromised mental health states have poorer access and use of essential ART therapy points out to significant disparities in our health care system, and we need to take proactive steps to address these gaps," [Balkrishnan] said.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.


Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.




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